So many things about this city were unexpected. Impressively clean, extremely safe, and friendly faces on every corner. It was the most alluring blend of greenery with concrete, found just off the equator on the South China Sea.
Surprisingly, Justin and I never felt claustrophobic. We pondered that notion over dim sum and decided it was for one obvious reason: there are very few cars in Hong Kong, because everyone uses public transportation. I have been stunted from travel for long enough that I became accustomed to the excessive fuel burning of the United States and massive multi-bedroom homes. It is so easy to associate a place like China with crowds, but it’s really not the people that make a place crowded, it’s the sheer amount of material items. Almost every major city I have visited overseas has incredible and cheap transportation. If only the USA could catch up.
Hong Kong is a city that is truly for everyone, especially beginner travelers. It is also disability friendly, named one of the most accessible cities in the world. The one caveat is it is a very expensive city. I spent weeks scoping out a hotel but could not find a budget option, until I turned to AirBnb (lifesaver). We scored a small but perfect apartment space in the Central District for $50/night. Still breaking the bank to kick off a five-month trip, but when in China...
We had such a blast navigating Hong Kong Island, the mainland, and Lantau. You can see all my tips below.
Quick City Guide
Explore the Central District. I just loved this trendy area. Home to the cheapest Michelin Star restaurant in the world, countless boutique shops, and authentic markets. Reserve an afternoon or two to wander the nooks and crannies of this charming neighborhood.
Visit Mong Kok. Also known as the Times Square of Hong Kong. It is an absolute sensory trip that will have your brain buzzing after an hour but it is a must-do while visiting. It is best experienced in the later hours of the day for the full disco party effect of the flashing advertisements. In close proximity to Mong Kok is the Goldfish Market, Lady’s Market, and Flower Market.
Temple Street Night Market. Foodies unite and cross your fingers you don’t get food poisoning. Justin and I indulged in heaps of classic Chinese food straight from the stands.
Herbal Medicine Market. Being a health practitioner and believer in the power of Eastern medicine, this was on my list. There was nothing super snazzy about this area, it was really just a collection of shops selling dried mushrooms and goji berries.
Ride the cable to Victoria Peak. The top photo is the view from the top of the cable car. It's a great option if you don't have hiking legs.
Explore the trails of Lantau Island. We spent three days on this island across the bay, known for it’s mountainous trails and peaceful fishing villages. It was the perfect break from the city.
See the Tian Tan Buddha and Po Lin Monastery. Experiencing the sight of a massive bronze Buddha in the depths of nature better be on your list. The Po Lin Monastery is kitty corner to the Buddha and is an impressive piece of art. Make sure you see the room with 10,000 Buddhas.
Shugetsu. On the Michelin guide in the Central District. Indulge in ramen for less than $20 USD. The bamboo shoots and broth had flavors I would never be able to replicate.
Tim Ho Wan. The cheapest Michelin star restaurant in the world (if you weren't already surprised at how cheap the above restaurant was). This place is pure dim sum, and everything about it is food magic.
Lak Sha Tea House. My particular favorite because it was nestled inside of a gallery up against Hong Kong Park. They have a comprehensive list of authentic Chinese tea, served by waiters in traditional gowns. I felt like I was on the set of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon.
Pure Veggie House. More dim sum, done the veggie way by the locals. I know what you’re thinking at this point, what’s with all the veggies? Justin and I prefer to eat this way and Hong Kong just happens to be on the band wagon.
Grassroots Pantry. Again, veggies by the locals. This place was a little upscale for a café, but it was a nice break from all the congee and dim sum.
Street food. Pack some probiotics and pepto bismal and just do it. You won’t regret it.
And a few more pictures from Lantau Island that wrapped up our time in Hong Kong.
I am an outdoor and travel junkie who is currently completing my doctorate in occupational therapy overseas in rural Fiji. On Sweet World Travels you will find stories of my life with my husband, the communities we serve, and the many adventures we take.